Why and How Did Reform Judaism Get Started? And the Differences Between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism
Whatever was called Pharisaic Judaism that preceded Reform Judaism was not "Orthodoxy" as generally believed. All Jewish religious movements today claim to be rooted from the Rabbinic tradition which is Pharisaic. However, the Reform movement started not because of changes in theology but started in response to Jewish emancipation. Orthodox Judaism is a reaction to (or, more precisely, a rejection of) Reform Jewish practice. The Conservative movement broke off the original Reform movement to become its own movement. The current Jewish movements differ mainly in what they see as their ultimate authority. Orthodox Judaism sees God as the ultimate authority, Conservative Judaism looks into the community for reference, and Reform Judaism goes for the autonomous Jewish self as a guide to living a meaningful Jewish life. Another way of describing their differences is in this way: the Orthodox movements mainly look into the Shulchan Aruch for answers, the Conservative movement looks into the Talmud, and the Reform movement uses the ethics of the prophets in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) for guidance. That does not mean that only Reform Judaism focuses on social ethics in Nevi'im (the prophets).